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    Qayum quits presidential race to back Rassoul

    KABUL (Pajhwok): Following negotiations lasting at least two weeks, presidential runner Abdul Qayum Karzai on Thursday formally announced his withdrawal from the race to support Zalmai Rassoul.

    Speaking at a press conference in Kabul, the President Karzai’s older brother said he and Rassoul, a former foreign minister, would jointly work as part of their electoral alliance to win the landmark presidential elections slated for April 5.

    He said the decision to join forces was to protect national interests and achieve economic development for the country.

    Qayum said his team joined Rassoul’s camp after a series of talks that involved tribal elders and representatives from 28 provinces.

    “We joined hands because our views, plans and objectives are the same. We will work together under a strong alliance,” he added.

    For his part, Rassoul welcomed the electoral alliance, saying Qayum’s team had proved it was sincere in its efforts to bring about stability to the country and promote the national interests.

    “Both teams will work together to win the presidential race. We are hopeful the new initiative will ensure our success,” he hoped.

    Qayum’s pullout was widely anticipated after he failed to show up for a televised debate this week. "I will go to every mosque, every room and every guesthouse to get this team elected," he told reporters after announcing his withdrawal.

    "We are hoping to win on the first round. This team represents the only hope for stability in this country."

    Rassoul said negotiations on the election alliance had been taking place for two to three weeks. "This is good for Afghanistan and good for democracy."

    With just a month until the vote, speculation has heightened about alliances between the hopefuls remaining in the race.

    The main opposition candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, said he was unconcerned about rivals joining forces.